What is Laser Skin Resurfacing and what is all the hype about it for? This is probably what you came here seeking to figure out. Or, you may want to know what skin resurfacing can fix, how much it costs, what getting the treatment is like, where to get it, or all of the above. I will answer all of those questions in this article for you.
Laser Skin Resurfacing is a lot higher tech and expensive than microdermabrasion which is usually what we talk about on this site, but more effective and versatile. There are so many different types of blemishes and unsightly things that laser skin resurfacing can remove.
List of What Laser Skin Resurfacing Can Remove:
· Acne Scarring
· Body Hair (if unwanted)
· Moles, Warts, Pimples
· Fine Lines
· Vascular Lesions
· Skin Diseases
What is Laser Skin Resurfacing?
To start, the word laser started as an acronym that stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser focuses a powerful beam of light, which could be in the visible, ultraviolet, or infrared spectrum of wavelength.
A laser directed at your skin will cause its energy to be absorbed by the skin in the form of heat, which can be concentrated to whatever specific tissue you want removed. It will remove the tissue via vaporization or burning due to the heat.
Because where the color of a laser falls on the electromagnetic radiation spectrum depends on its wavelength (which is inverse of a laser’s wave’s frequency), different color lasers are best for treating different kinds of tissues on the skin or different conditions.
Generally speaking, the lower the wavelength (or closer to ultraviolet part of the spectrum), the more energetic the waves of the laser will be. This is why ultraviolet radiation can cause skin cancer and gamma radiation can cause radiation poisoning (don’t worry, neither of these issues are possible with laser skin resurfacing).
How Does It Work?
Lasers operate in two different categories: continuous and pulsed. A pulsed laser turns on and off at a very quick rate. A continuous laser is on constantly. Both serve the same main function but are used in different situations or by different professionals. I am going to get somewhat scientific in the following discussion, but feel free to use the table of contents if you wish to read about a different aspect of laser skin resurfacing.
Layers of the Skin
Understand the skin’s layers and structure will help you understand what a laser does to get rid of unwanted tissue. There are three main layers of skin on the human body. From surface to deeper they are the epidermis, dermis, and subcutis.
The epidermis is the layer of skin that you see and feel on the surface. Its composition contains stratum corneum, live keratinocytes, and melanocytes, which are the skin cells that contain the pigments that are responsible for skin color, as you may recognize the word melanin.
The dermis is the middle layer of the skin. It is comprised of general skin cells, hair follicles, sweat glands, and collagen that is structured to hold everything together. You may have heard of collagen supplements, which is because it is one of the main building proteins found in the human body. It is actually produced by fibroblasts which are extremely important cells in the body for building structures.
The subcutis is the deepest layer of skin. It is essentially just connective tissue (also known as fat) between the skin and underlying tissue, whether that be fascia, organs, or muscle.
The Two Types of Lasers: Ablative and Non-Ablative
These are the two main categories of distinction with ramifications in laser skin resurfacing. These are whether a laser operates on the premise of ablation or does not utilize ablation. In short, an ablative laser removes some of the skin as it operates whereas a non-ablative laser does not remove the skin in operation.
Ablative lasers are usually of the CO2 or Erbium type. Generally, these lasers are used for sun damage, wrinkles, and potentially fine lines. This would be the type of laser more similar to how microdermabrasion, chemical peels, or mechanical resurfacing or exfoliating work. There are also fully ablative and partially ablative lasers in the main category of ablative. Fully ablative is more invasive and serious, but more effective and only a one-time treatment.
A non-ablative laser is just as it sounds, it does not remove any skin. The way these laser skin resurfacing devices work is by heating up the all so important fibroblast cells. When the fibroblasts are heated, they become stimulated and cause the structural collagen to become thicker. That part of the skin will become thicker due to this and it will even out imperfections in smoothness, like wrinkles and fine lines or lesions. Non-ablative lasers usually require multiple treatments but are less invasive than ablative lasers.
The Five Laser Technologies
This is the oldest ablative laser type and is still the most heavily used. It is used for improving the following: skin tone, scarring, acne scarring, texture, fine lines, and wrinkles. CO2 lasers are invasive because of their ablative nature, there will be discomfort and recovery associated with laser skin resurfacing treatment via a CO2 laser. There will be pinkness or slight redness depending on your skin color for about 4 weeks post treatment. The darker your skin type is the more at risk you will have of hyperpigmentation. Your surgeon will discuss this with you and it should not be overlooked at all.
Q-Switched Nd:YAG Laser
These laser systems are capable of removing pigmentation issues and black tattoos as well as blue colored tattoos. It will take several treatments with this laser to fully remove a tattoo, this varies from person to person as well as tattoo to tattoo, but is generally around 10 treatments.
This laser operates on the premise of dissolving the tissue that the patient wants gone by targeting the epidermis. This means it does not go very deep and is much less invasive than a CO2 laser. It also is of the pulsing type which decreases skin heating, reducing the amount of damage done. Er:YAG lasers work great for sun damage. Again, it is not very invasive, but not super powerful as to being extremely effective for wrinkles or scarring.
Fractioned lasers are an ablative laser. Essentially, it is a milder option to ablative laser treatment than a CO2 laser. They will work for wrinkles, scars, acne scarring, sun damage, pigmentation, lesions, and texture blemishes. Fractioned lasers are extremely popular for laser skin resurfacing because they have less recovery than comparable laser technologies.
Long-Pulsed Nd:YAG Laser
The Long-Pulsed variation of the Nd:YAG technology is great for anything related to the vascular system, which could be vascular lesions, capillary damage, spider veins, or flushing of the face. It will not be as good for winkles or sun damage as some other laser types, so it is mostly reserved for vascular-dermal issues. There is a high-power version of this laser, which is also used for vascular lesions, but also for removing hair (laser hair removal), and is dark skin capable.
Can I get Laser Skin Resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing is more invasive than microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and many other beauty treatments. It is not the most invasive however. This is not to say it goes without any risks. Not everyone is safely eligible for treatment via laser skin resurfacing.
I must preface this all by saying you must, must have consultation with the appropriate medical professional before getting this form of treatment. No medical group will even provide you this treatment without going through their required checks and consultations. I am just here to give you advice, before you get your final advice.
Ensure the physician has access to your entire medical history to determine if you are a candidate for safe laser skin resurfacing or not. They should ask you if you take any supplements to make sure there won’t be anything in your system that could cause complications with the treatment. They should be very thorough with past viruses you have had because you risk having dormant viruses becoming active after stimulation from laser skin resurfacing.
What are the Risks of Laser Skin Resurfacing?
Here are some of the known risks of laser skin resurfacing: complications with anesthesia including but not limited to allergic reaction, scarring, infection, hyperpigmentation, blisters, burns. Those are not all of the potential complications or side effects that could arise from laser skin resurfacing.
As stated earlier, this treatment could stimulate and wake dormant viruses, including but not limited to herpes. There are actual medications that a surgeon will give you to prevent this from happening, so it is still possible to get laser skin resurfacing with dormant viruses, as many people have.
Laser Resurfacing Cost
Ablative and non-ablative laser treatments vary significantly in cost. Average cost of a non-ablative treatment is only $1,031, while average cost for ablative laser treatment is $2,330. As you can see, ablative is over twice as expensive on average than non-ablative.
Because of hospital, anesthesia, and other potential fees, cost varies a lot for any given treatment. It could cost you anywhere between $1,000 and $6,000 for laser skin resurfacing. How many treatments you get also matters a lot for cost, because as mentioned earlier, some laser technologies require multiple visits, like many of the non-ablative treatments.
What is Getting Laser Skin Resurfacing Like?
The treatment itself for laser skin resurfacing takes between a half hour and an hour and a half, generally speaking. How long the treatment takes is mostly dependent on the skin area that is needing treatment. Laser type and chemistry are the other factors. For example, a tattoo removal could be short per treatment, but take long overall because you need to come back another 7 to 11 times to finish the job.
Before the laser starts doing its thing, the surgeon and their staff will sterilize your skin with a solution to make sure all surface bacterial is killed and removed. You will not be under general anesthesia during laser skin resurfacing, which is great, because general anesthesia is one of the biggest risks of major surgeries. You will simply be under topical anesthesia numbing or light sleep sedation. Only for the most serious of resurfacings will general anesthesia be used.
The laser device produces a beam that is redirected through the wand that the surgeon holds. The surgeon is the one doing the aiming, and he or she will direct the laser over the desired area in such a manner that will result in better looking skin. How exactly this is done is very specific to the blemish type and what laser is being used. The laser may affect underneath tissue and there is little immediate visible change, or it could vaporize the top layer of the skin immediately.
Once the surgeon is finished they will do some post operation protocol. This usually involves an ointment that is designed to help the healing process occur (there will be a post treatment at home protocol provided to you depending on the treatment, but bare minimum you will receive at home care instructions to perform after the treatment).
There will be a recovery period for your skin after the treatment. The length of this depends on what treatment you received. The most invasive type, a fully ablative CO2 laser, will warrant a healing period of a week to a week and a half. Partially ablative CO2 will be roughly four days. Luckily, the skin is one of the fastest healing tissue types in the human body, so recovery is absolutely nothing compared to say an orthopedic surgery.
There will be redness, pinkness, some puffiness/light swelling of the skin as a part of the recovery process. There may be some bloody spots on the treated skin. It is best that you understand that all of these things are normal and a part of the mechanism of the skin’s reaction that allows laser skin resurfacing to work. Allow up to a couple of months for the skin to return to a normal or better appearance than before, especially for fully ablative treatments. A concealer will do the job for hiding the redness, just be sure it is not any makeup that could impede the recovery process or cause any issues.
A big thing to be sure of is protecting treated skin from the sun, especially soon after treatment occurred. This is a must! New skin is much more susceptible to UV radiation damage than more established and tan skin. Protect the facial skin (if treated with laser) with a large hat and sunscreen that is at least SPF 15.
Pros and Cons of Laser Skin Resurfacing
· Very effective for a number of skin blemishes/problems (including tattoo removal)
· Highly precise, will only target areas that you want unlike a chemical peel or microdermabrasion
· Done by Trained Professionals
· Well researched and fairly safe, because it has been around for a while and is very profitable for the medical industry
· Very Expensive ($1,000 to $6,000 and not covered by medical insurance)
· Has some negative effects directly after treatment as well as a recovery period
· Not everyone can receive it due to some conflicting conditions or situations
· Can be slightly painful or uncomfortable compared to non-invasive treatments
Laser Skin Resurfacing is one of the highest end skin treatments currently available. It is expensive, high tech, and highly effective. In fact, there may not be a treatment that is better at removing sun damage, wrinkles, or scars. It is also the only real way to remove tattoos.
All of these reasons are why it is so popular, and many people are willing to shell out the thousands of dollars to receive laser skin resurfacing. More and more dermatologists and plastic surgeons are hopping on the laser skin resurfacing bandwagon, although it has been well established in the medical community for a while. Being an outpatient procedure makes it very appealing, with plastic surgery being one of the next steps up (and who wants to do plastic surgery with all the horrible failures that we see celebrities with after getting it).
It is always good to survey all of your options if you are serious about getting rid of whatever pesky effects of aging you have on your face. I hope this guide gave you some of the information you needed for considering laser skin resurfacing. Thanks for stopping by! -Elize